Tag Archives: change

Subtext

 

Recently I was watching an old police drama. One character, that was being interviewed, was obfuscating and it dawned on me that it was all about the subtext. Of course, my little brain went wooooh!  My first thought was that kids today don’t understand subtext and then I realized:  that is how our youth speak to each other.  I am also not entirely sure they understand the art of communication. They can actually have complete conversations in 280 characters!  It used to be 140! And yet the average ‘text’ is usually only about 33 characters.  I can’t say ‘hello’ properly in less than 50.  And that is characters not words. When I was a youth, a text was a book, a sub was either a sandwich or a boat and characters were on the screen. Well, not really but those are the first things I think of.

Our language has evolved as our children have evolved. Today’s kids are in many ways much smarter than we ever were. But they are also dumber. Sorry that’s not fair.  But think about it:  how many have lost the ability to read cursive or tell time on an analog clock?  Good manners are no longer common place, good sense is lacking and good courtesy . . .

A proper conversation was fluid and accentuated with gestures and facial reactions, whole body movements. Dialogues today are via texts.  Heads down, eyes focused on a 4 x 6” screen.  And this is while they are sitting next to each other!  There is no sharing of emotions or reactions.  How can you experience the flavour, the intensity of a language if you are alone or unaware?  People who are blind or hearing-impaired use touch or movement to round out their talks.

Today’s conversationalists speak emoji. Teeny, tiny little figures that denote emotion. I think. I don’t really speak emoji. I know if I see a little yellow face with a smile that’s a good thing.  I have seen people use an entire string of these emoji creatures and they’re actually speaking a sentence. Impressive. But like so many languages, I can only speak a few words. But I can fake it really well!

I am afraid to look too far into the future. Will conversations become soundbites and emojis? Or will we regress to a time when people sat over a cup of tea and had long conversations with gestures and substance. I don’t want to spend an hour over lunch discussing some actor’s transcendental metamorphosis while he was grooming his dog. I like a real conversation about life, the world, the future . . .

For at least a little while we are going to have to be inventive in how we have our chats. But I truly hope we do not retreat to the little glass screen but we keep a dialogue going face-to-face even if it is at a distance. That to me is a conversation.

 

Teach Your Children Well

It is a line within a song by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young that popped into my head the other day.  The title is ‘Teach Your Children’ and it was out in the seventies. It was good advice then and it’s good advice now.  Actually, if we don’t do it right, we are dooming ourselves, our species.

We screwed up. Racism, poverty, intolerance.  These are fixable issues.  They truly are.  So why are people still dying?    It is happening because of greed, apathy and intolerance.  Learned attributes.    So, what do we do?  We teach our children to love, how to show compassion. We teach them the truth:  we are ALL important.  Each and every one of us.  That is a truth too many try to hide with their hatred.

Many years ago, two different groups of children were introduced to each other. They spent a week or so, in each other’s company.  They only learned the other’s names, no backgrounds.  Eventually it was discovered that one group was from Northern Ireland, the other from England.  They didn’t know that they were supposed to hate each other.  They truly did become friends. I couldn’t find the experiment on-line so maybe I dreamed it but I do not believe so. I read it many, many years ago and it stuck with me.  Hate is taught to our children.  And we teach it.

Okay, okay not all of us are so narrow minded that we instil our biases in our young but it happens far too much. If we can change that, we can make an enormous leap towards global acceptance.   It is probably pretty close to impossible to change the attitude of many of the adults. That may simply be because they have lived so long with their hatred, some don’t know to survive without it.  That doesn’t mean we should stop trying. Old dogs can be taught new tricks.

With everything that has been going on in the last few weeks it is no surprise we have reached a boiling point.  The pandemic has lit the match on an already volatile society.  We are cooped up and tensions are high.  But the problems are not new ones, just old ones we refused to face.

If we want a future, a viable future, we must change. It must start with the children.  Teach your children well.

 

 

Teach Your Children

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good-bye.
Teach your children well,
Their father’s hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picks, the one you’ll know by.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you will cry,
So just look at them and sigh
And know they love you.

And you, of tender years,
Can’t know the fears that your elders grew by,
And so please help them with your youth,
They seek the truth before they can die.

Teach your parents well,
Their children’s hell will slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picks, the one you’ll know by.

Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you will cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

 

The True Spirit

 

Mary was angry. Here it was two days before Christmas, she was in a town she didn’t know, a new job she didn’t like, she had no friends and no family close by, and some dirty bum had his hand out looking for money. And on top of all that, he had the unmitigated gall to be smiling as if he was happy.

Mary wasn’t smiling. In fact she was absolutely miserable. Christmas was just another day on the calendar, it had no real meaning. People went into stores and spent a ridiculous amount of money on gifts for other people that the other people really didn’t want. Christmas wasn’t even for the children. It was just another way to teach them about how money makes the world go round. If you had money it was a good life. If you did not then you starved and were miserable, and you should look like you were miserable.

Mary approached the man that she called a bum. She was frustrated, she was angry, and she needed this person to explain to her how he could be so damn happy. Maybe he was on drugs or maybe he was crazy, but Mary didn’t think so. Of course she did drop a twenty dollar bill into his tin can before she posed her question.

“Are you alright? You are sitting here on a cold sidewalk asking for money. All around you is obscene wealth. How can you sit there and smile when you have nothing and so many people around you are spending money like it is water and on frivolous things? You look like you need food and these people are buying toys for people who really don’t want them. How can you sit there and smile? I’ve seen you everyday for the last week and you smile everyday, you wish people a Merry Christmas, or Happy Hanukkah, or Happy Kwanza and I don’t understand how you can actually be happy!”

At this point Mary was almost in tears. She felt so alone and so unloved that she felt jealous of this destitute individual. She wanted to shake him to make him see what an awful place the world was but she didn’t. What she did do was pause for a breath and what she saw then took that breath away.

Just a moment before she had been looking at a dirty bum and now he had taken on a dignity that belied her original perception. He sat up straighter and his smile became wider. Even his eyes seemed to twinkle with a secret knowledge. There was a beauty to his face that she had not noticed before. His voice, when he spoke, was strong and melodic. The words he spoke were the truth.

“But I have everything. Someone gave me a coat to keep me warm. He gave me the gift of warmth. People stop and give me their spare change, a cup of coffee, or a sandwich. A small child gave me a penny. A penny to a small child is like a million dollars to a billionaire. A beautiful woman gave me her scarf to warm my neck. An old man gave me a warm pair of gloves. All I have to offer them in return is my smile and my best wishes. Some people are embarrassed and hurry on but others take it in the spirit in which it is given. Some people give of themselves, and that is what makes me the wealthiest of people.”

Mary thought about what this person had just said to her. It was starting to make sense. The importance of the season was not the gift; it was not the thought of the gift. That was all meaningless. What was important was the giving of one’s self willingly.

The next day Mary went into work. She felt a little lighter, a little happier. She looked around her with a new perspective: people were giving of them selves; the gifts they were giving were simply an extension of their spirit. Sometimes the gifts were expensive, sometimes the gifts cost only pennies and sometimes it was only a word and a hug. But these people were giving, Mary saw that now. And Mary started giving as well.

It was Christmas Eve now and Mary wanted to share with the homeless man what she had learned. She stopped at the bank and took out one hundred dollars. She placed the money in an envelope and tucked that into the pocket of her coat. With a smile on her face she went looking for the homeless man.

But he wasn’t there. Mary walked up and down the street looking for him. She asked shop keepers if they had seen him but everyone was too busy and said they didn’t remember. So Mary continued on her walk home. She was sad now that she couldn’t share with the man who had taught her so much. She wondered where he had gone and what he was doing for Christmas.

Just two blocks before Mary reached her apartment building was a small church. Mary had seen the structure before but had never ventured in. Today her feet took her over the threshold and into the church. She sat quietly in one of the back pews and looked up into the beautiful stained-glass windows. She felt at peace. As her eyes wandered over the beautiful paintings, a figure seemed to stand out: it was of man who was seated on the ground and his hand was outstretched as if beckoning. Her eyes widened in recognition and then she shook her head, it was not possible.

As Mary turned over in bed that night, she replayed in her head what she had learned and she smiled. She had left the envelope with the money in the church; she knew it was the right thing to do. Never again would she forget just how valuable it is to interact with other people. Giving of one’s self is as simple as smiling. He had taught her that.

The end

 

  Seasonal Changes

                         Sorry everyone, it has been a busy week and the post I had planned is not quite ready.  I hope this little story will amuse you in the mean time.

Lea looked around her and smiled. Life was good. She felt as if she was on top of the world. Which in fact, was not too far from the truth. She was high enough to look down on the teeming masses and feel superior.

A gentle breeze moved around her and she shivered in delight. With the sun on her face and the faintest wafts of air to keep the bugs at bay there was no other place Lea would have preferred to be. Here she could while away the days in thought and feeling. The whole experience was a hedonistic surplus of sensation.

It is dangerous to spend all of one’s time in the near sighted pursuit of just one ideal. With the passage of time comes change.

Lea woke one morning to a strange feeling of fear. She really didn’t understand the sensation but she was sure she didn’t like it. Carefully she glanced around her. Everything seemed unchanged. The people she could see were scurrying about their daily lives. The sun was in the sky, the wind was quiet but still there. It had rained over the last few days but that was not unusual and it even made the world seem a little crisper, more alive. But something was different.

Lea didn’t live in her little aerie alone, she had neighbours. When she finally deigned to actually acknowledge them, she discovered that they had changed. Perhaps they had spent too much time in the sun because they were definitely a different colour. Not an unpleasant shade of red but it did depend on your tastes. Once again Lea felt superior. She wasn’t going to change, not her.

There are few inevitabilities in life, death and taxes not withstanding. The passage of time can never be halted no matter how much we may want it and with that passage also comes change. We can rail against it all we want but change happens.

It had been a few weeks since Lea had first noticed the changes in her neighbours and she was horrified to see that they seemed to have accepted it. It must be because they were old, past their prime. Not like her. Although, in the last few weeks she had been feeling a little tired, not her usual perky self. It must be the weather. The wind was blowing a little harder and the sun wasn’t nearly as warm as it had been. Lea was sure that it would all pass and that one day soon everything would be back to normal. It had to, she wouldn’t accept anything else.

The next day Lea woke feeling cold and sore. She looked to her neighbours and saw that they were gone. She made the effort to look around her and noticed that all of her neighbours had gone. She was alone. The people below were fewer and those she could see were not enjoying the day like they used to, they seemed to be in a hurry. It is hard to feel sanctimonious when you are alone.

A few days later Lea did not wake up. The wind was blowing hard and crisp. The sun seemed lower in the sky, almost as if it too was finding it difficult to rise in the morning. The warm days of summer had come to an end and the cool winds of change had brought the autumn. With her many neighbours Lea now formed a blanket of leaves beneath her cherished trees. The seasons changed once more.

 

-End-

Swaddling Clothes

 

So long ago a child was born

In swaddling clothes He lay

Sheep and cattle gathered near

And wise men kneeled to pray

 

As time went by upon the earth

This child had years to grow

Once He sought a temple’s scribes

To tell them what to know

 

The Son did speak His Father’s words

Of love and trust and truth

Others must be taught to know

The principles of this youth

 

He lived His life each every day

By the tenets of which he spoke

They form the basis of our lives

As one we must invoke

 

So long ago a man did die

In swaddling clothes he lay

He gave His life for all of us

And now it’s time to pray

 

   Non Scents

Just like the ‘powers that be’ want us to live in a “paperless society” they also seem to want us to do that scent free. As I look around my cluttered, paper strewn desk, I chuckle. Scent free? Impossible!

”Fragrance Free Space!” “Scent Free Zone!” ”We Share the Air!” I can understand asking people to refrain from wearing perfume and cologne. (The way some people marinate in their choice of scent is quite nauseating. But I digress.) The Purveyors of Scents is a multi billion dollar business. They will not go quietly into that good night.

It used to be quite common for women and indeed men to adorn themselves with particular scents. People became known by the way they smelled. Some were flowery, some were exotic and others were, well, to each their own. I once was attracted to a man who always wore the same cologne which I found quite heady. So much so that when I smelled it in a grocery store my heart started to flutter. Imagine my chagrin when I turned around and it was being worn by a woman. Man, I can still smell that cologne!

But over the years I became sensitive. If you are wearing too perfume I might actually have a coughing fit. It’s not an attractive look for me. And I am not alone in this. Hence the signs asking people to refrain. And this is where it gets interesting.

A friend came over and I started to cough. Like I said it’s not a good look for me. I explained that it was probably her perfume that had set me off. She said she wasn’t wearing any. When she was seated across the room we started to take stock. Shampoo, body lotion, face cream, deodorant, lipstick, makeup, laundry detergent, dryer sheets . . . are you starting to get the picture? There are scents in everything!

I buy non-scented laundry detergent and dryer sheets. They still have perfume in them but it is much milder than the scented ones. Mild but not completely absent. Buying deodorant or anti-perspirant is not a case of what works best, it’s a case of what smell I can handle. It’s the same with shampoos. There are chemically added smells to just about everything!

I love the smell of the earth in the spring with just a hint of rain in the air. I love the smell of grass growing in the dirt or wind straight off the lake. I love the smell of snow and pinecones. I love the smell of the mountain breezes. I love natural smells. But the ones that are created by chemical means are offensive. With all the technology that exists in this world and we can’t figure out how to make natural scents using natural products in a natural way? No. People do love their chemicals!

When I was younger we used to go camping and one of the things you learn early on is to leave your perfumes at home. They just attract the bugs. After a week without perfume and deodorant and body lotion stinking up nature we all smelled a little ripe. It was an honest smell and since we all smelled the same way it became less offensive. Actually you don’t even notice it after awhile. I get that wouldn’t work in the offices of today but surely we can figure something out.

Maybe instead of trying to go scent free, we should more accurately try to be scent tolerable. Fewer chemicals and more naturals. What I’m I thinking? That will never happen. We are talking about a multibillion-dollar business. And as we all know: money speaks loudly!